Mamie Van Doren gives shout-out to Palm Springs gays, reprises memoir

Actress and author Mamie Van Doren greets her star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. Submitted photo

Mamie Van Doren, who first made hearts race as a sex symbol in the 1950s, was given the ultimate stamp of approval for her latest project.

On the cover of her recently revised book, “Playing the Field: Sex, Stardom, Love, and Life in Hollywood,” is a compliment from legendary Playboy publisher and barometer for bombshell status Hugh Hefner.

“The cover of your autobiography is gorgeous,” Hef writes about the image of Van Doren wearing a clingy gold gown on a crimson background.

Van Doren added photos and other content for the recent incarnation, after a publisher who considered the original manuscript too risqué white-washed it. While there are plenty of anecdotes to qualify the tome as a kiss-and-tell, she says it has more merit than that.

“I’ve had a very good response to it,” Van Doren adds. “I just wanted to share what it was like in the ’50s and growing up in the ‘30s and ’40s.”

Van Doren with movie star Clark Gable. Submitted photo

A significant part of the story takes place in Palm Springs, where Van Doren was discovered by Howard Hughes as a 16-year-old contestant in a beauty pageant. She returns to the desert city Saturday, May 11, to meet fans and sign copies of her book at Just Fabulous in uptown (See details below). She recently discussed with Desert Outlook her thoughts on being a member of the goddess trilogy, an intriguing same-sex crush, and aging sexily.

How did you end up in Palm Springs at age 16?
My mom and I would go out there and we’d stay in a place called The Montecito. They had bungalows in those days — beautiful place. It had trees and a beautiful pool. There was the Miss Palm Springs contest coming up. I was asked to be in it. I really don’t want to, but my mother insisted. I didn’t dare not to. I was scared, even to be in a bathing suit. I was very shy in those days.
The contest was at the Chi Chi. Desi Arnaz was starring there. After he was through, we went on the stage, one at a time. It was a very big deal. The place was just packed. And I won. I didn’t realize that Mr. (Howard) Hughes happened to be in the audience, and he saw me. He owned RKO at that time. I got a call from RKO that he wanted to work with me. I did five movies with him.

You’re often mentioned as a part of the trilogy, in the company of Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Did you know either of them?
I knew both of them quite well. Marilyn and I had the same acting coach for awhile. I did a movie with Jayne Mansfield. Her daughter, Mariska Hargitay, has called me and kind of wanted to know about her mother. That was very touching.
We were friends. Everybody tried to say that we didn’t like each other. That wasn’t the case at all. There was room for everybody in the business.

What’s your philosophy or approach to life?
I’ve become a Buddhist and it’s helped me considerably. Just one day at a time. I don’t look ahead that much. I don’t dwell on anything. I look after my health. I never did smoke. That’s very helpful.

What are the best and worst things about aging as a sex symbol?
There’s a lot of discrimination toward older people. Everybody puts people down after they get a certain age. When I was real young, I would notice that and I would say I would never do that. My mother lived to be in her mid-80s. She was very beautiful up to her last moment.
I try and survive and ignore the people who are that way. I stay away from badness. There’s a lot of that around. People today are not as kind as they used to be. I really miss that.

You’re very forthcoming in your recollections about Hollywood and your lovers. Is there anything in the book you had second thoughts about including?
No … Everything I said, I’m not sorry I said. It’s all true. It’s my life. I’ve been dedicating my life to entertainment, making (people) happy and making them feel good. That’s the journey that was chosen for me, I guess.

What prompted you to paraphrase one of your famous quotes: “It is possible that gentlemen also prefer gentlemen”?
It’s too good to deny. In my mind at that time, God only knows. … I could’ve been a lesbian, I think. I had a chance to enjoy Coco Chanel. I look at myself and say “Why did I turn that down?” She could’ve learned something from me. She adored me.

Van Doren with Palm Springs resident and entertainer Bob Hope. Submitted photo

You’ve been with your husband, Thomas Dixon, for a long time. For everyone looking for a good partner, what advice do you have?
We met in 1974 and we’ve hung out together ever since. It’s been a long time. Thomas came to me at the time I least expected. We were just friends. All of the sudden it blossomed into a relationship and then we got married. It’s hard to, say, look for someone. It’s very difficult to find him when you’re very young. It takes time. It took me until I was in my early 40s until I found the right one. I went through four marriages.

What’s your proudest professional achievement?
I never really stopped to think of it. Writing is the hardest because it’s tedious. It’s very fulfilling because sometimes when I can’t say things, I’ll write it. Acting, if I have the right person to work with, it’s great. I love working with the right people and getting the most out of it. I was lucky to have the experience of working with the best. And I’ve worked with the worst. I’ve had good coaching in my life. I’ve always had a nose for keeping myself out of trouble and meeting the right people. That’s really important in your life. People seem to get tangled up with the wrong *&^@#. You’ve got to be really smart to know who your friends really are. They’re far and few between. You really can’t trust anyone anymore.

What’s your fondest memory of your time in Palm Springs?
I got my star on your Walk of Stars there. It’s right next to Marilyn Monroe’s. It’s between Marilyn’s and Marlene Dietrich’s.
I always think of my mom when I’m there. It’s very nostalgic. I think about the Racquet Club and Howard Hughes. Palm Springs really hasn’t changed. It’s the same trees, the same everything. The people have changed. Luckily, a lot of gays are living there and they’ve made it look nice. It was deteriorating for awhile there.

What’s next for you?
I just finished a TV pilot. It’s called “Sawdust.” It’s about the circus and what it was like in the 1930s. … I’m the owner of a circus. The leading man would be Bob Mitchum’s son, Chris Mitchum.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Mamie Van Doren book signing

WHEN: 1-3 p.m. Saturday, May 11

WHERE: Just Fabulous, 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

INFO: www.bjustfabulous.com

 

Air hostess Pam Ann lands in Palm Desert

 

Caroline Reid as Pam Ann. Submitted photo

Sometimes as a journalist I get to interview people who make a lasting impression. I recently spoke with air hostess Pam Ann, the alter-ego of Australian comedian Caroline Reid, who’s appearing May 10 in “Cockpit!” at the McCallum in Palm Desert.

During our brief chat she was charming, funny, salty, smart, irreverent and, in her own words, “super geeky passionate.”

Here’s an excerpt:

How did the Pam Ann character come about?

PAM ANN: Through desperation of getting off the island of Australia. I had to come up with something to get off there and get to civilization. I wanted to do acting and I was really inspired by Sandra Bernhard. But I was awful at auditions and I could never get anything in the acting world. I thought the only way to get something was to do something myself.

I dressed up as this Pan American air hostess for a party. After a few drinks everyone kept saying “Pam Ann, Pam Ann, Pam Ann.”  I woke up and I thought … I’ve never really travelled either. I was always inspired by that era — like Palm Springs. To me, I love it because it has that ’60s chic-ness to it and the design. I just love that. Pam Ann is a throwback to the ’60s.

I was always told the show was style over substance. I thought it was a good thing. I was more excited about doing the posters and the outfits than the show.

What did you think when celebrities such as Cher, Elton John and Madonna made it known they were fans of yours?

It stopped though. I need a new one to add to the collection. Why didn’t Lady Gaga say something recently?

I’m from the suburbs of Australia. When I did the Cher tour — her manager is Australian — I rang my mom. She said, “Cher? What, the tribute act?” “No,” I said, “Cher Cher.”

All of it is always a shock to me. I still think about the Cher thing and think, Did that happen? I grew up with “The Sonny and Cher Show” in Australia.

Who makes you laugh harder than anyone?

You know what, my favorite comedian is Joan Rivers, of course. She’s continuously pushing the boundaries. I love her because she winds up those stupid *#@& who need it. Everyone is so offended today. Some people need to be shaken like a child. I like Joan Rivers.

I like Louis C.K. I think he’s great because he couldn’t give a #%*& and he says that to people. Justin Vivian Bond, I find ingeniously funny. I always have. He’s been a friend of mind for years. I find his whole reality amazing. He’s just one of the best storytellers and comics in the world today.

I went on a date yesterday with this guy and we had foie gras. He didn’t know what foie gras was. I said, “Foie gras is like the goose liver.” We’re walking toward the lake and there’s a goose. He pointed and said, “Look there’s an organ donor.” He wasn’t even trying to be funny. It was genius.

Is there anything more you want people to know about you?

Here’s a good quote: “I’d rather cry in a Rolls than be happy on a bike.” Patrizia Gucci said that in the back of a car on her way to prison after killing her husband.

IF YOU GO

What: Pam Ann in “Cockpit!”

When: 8 p.m. May 10

Where: McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert

Tickets: $45-$65

Info: (760) 340-2787, www.mccallumtheatre.com

Cyndi Lauper follows ‘Kinky Boots’ with Palm Springs performance

Cyndi Lauper. Submitted photo

Cyndi Lauper will do something May 11 that she’s never done before in her 30-year career. She will perform during the AIDS Assistance Program’s annual Evening Under the Stars in Palm Springs (see details below).

But that’s just one of her career-firsts this year. In early April, “Kinky Boots,” the only musical she’s written the music and lyrics for, opened on Broadway. Lauper adapted the show from screen to stage with theater veteran Harvey Fierstein. It received 13 Tony Award nominations on April 30.

Lauper — who won legions of fans with “Time After Time,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “True Colors” and an iPod full of other pop tunes — recently shared her opening night experience on Broadway with Desert Outlook.

“I was really nervous — knowing that the show was finally opened and all the reviewers were there too. We had the most amazing audiences in previews, so we felt the crowd would be with us, but knowing there was press in the house that night added to my anxiety. We have all been working on the musical for almost four years. So it was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.

“Everyone on and off stage that is part of Kinky Boots brought their A game to this project,” Lauper continues. “Everyone from the producers to the cast to the musicians. It was an amazing creative process to be part of. We are all a family now and when you come to the show, you feel that and (are) affected by it.

“It’s a great story about how acceptance for yourself and others can change the world. … Then, reviews (which I never read my own reviews, good or bad, as I find them distracting) for ‘Kinky Boots,’ which is so important to the health of a musical, were all really good. So I was overjoyed.”

Lauper reveals more about the show, her crazy-busy life, and what she thinks about the progress of gay rights in the new issue of Desert Outlook, out May 9.

IF YOU GO

Twentieth Evening Under the Stars benefitting AIDS Assistance Program. Honorees include Helene Galen, Jerry and Barbara Keller, and Brian Wanzek

When: 5:30 p.m. May 11

Where: O’Donnell Golf Club, 301 N. Belardo Road, Palm Springs

Tickets: $395 – $1,500

Info: www.aidsassistance.org, (760) 325-8481

 

Palm Springs weekend: the ‘Hot’ gay rodeo

"Mr. Hot Rodeo" Michael Allen of Palm Springs (fourth from left), shown here with fellow cowboys, will appear at the the Palm Springs Hot Rodeo. Photo submitted by Greater Palm Springs Chapter of Golden State Gay Rodeo Association

Rustle up your western-style shirt, boots, chaps and jeans (Uh, how about a T-shirt and denim cutoffs? It’s hot out there.).

Gay cowboys and cowgirls are expected to converge in Riverside County this weekend for the annual Palm Springs Hot Rodeo. Many will spend the better part of their days May 3-5 ropin’, ridin’ and entertaining in rodeo events in Banning. Then, they will head to Palm Springs and Cathedral City for evenings of ropin’ … partying at various clubs and venues.

The big dance is planned for 7 p.m. Saturday, May 4, in the parking lot at Spurline Video Lounge, 200 S. Indian Canyon Drive in Palm Springs (www.spurline.com). Admission is $10.

Find out more about Hot Rodeo and the Greater Palm Springs Chapter of the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association in Matthew Link’s Mydesert story at http://www.mydesert.com/article/20130425/NEWS01/304250043/Gay-rodeo-promises-Hot-time .

Pro basketball player makes sports, LGBT history

 

Jason Collins with the Washington Wizards comes out in Sports Illustrated. Getty Images.

Jason Collins, a center with the Washington Wizards, recently made headlines and history as the first professional athlete with a major American sports team to announce he’s gay. The Wizards are a part of the National Basketball Association.

The 34-year-old Los Angeles native, who’s featured on the May 6 cover of Sports Illustrated, says, “I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say ‘Me, too.’”

Collins’ announcement comes after several months of speculation that one or more players with the National Football League would soon come out. Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, an LGBT rights advocate, said this month there’s a plan with equality organizations to prepare four players to come out.

Proponents of openly gay athletes expect Collins will need a strong support system to handle the discrimination he likely will face, the strongest of which may come from sports fans.

Coachella Valley residents, visitors dine out for life

Juan Hurtado, a server at LULU California Bistro, holds a plate with pan seared Marine Sea Scallops and Chicken Florentine dish offfered at the restaurant. File photo

The meals you eat today could help make a difference in the lives of Coachella Valley residents affected by HIV/AIDS.

The eighth annual Dining Out for Life, benefitting Desert AIDS Project, is underway at 38 participating restaurants, coffee shops and bars from Palm Springs to Palm Desert.

Here’s how it works: you go to breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of your favorite restaurants, or one you’ve wanted to try, and the restaurant contributes a portion of your sale (of all proceeds for the day) to Desert AIDS Project. The restaurants are contributing 33, 50, 60 or 75 percent.

For many of those eating out, it’s a social event as well as a charitable donation.  In past years, many invited a group of friends to join them for a meal and made an event of it, while others opted to have every meal out.

See the list of restaurants and their percentage at http://www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings/restaurants.

Bon Appetit.

Palm Springs play provides intriguing look at Truman Capote’s final chapter

Chuck Yates portrays Truman Capote in the play "Tru," the final production of Coyote StageWorks' 2012-2013 season, through April 28. Photo by David A. Lee

Jetsetter, party host extraordinaire, entertaining gossip and frequent talk show guest — writer Truman Capote took on many roles during his life.

His literary accomplishments were often overshadowed by his celebrity persona, though he wrote some of the 20th century’s most beloved stories, including “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and was credited with developing the nonfiction novel genre with “In Cold Blood.” But no matter how the public or critics saw him, Capote considered himself to be an artist above all else.

In “Tru,” the play by Jay Presson Allen, Capote questions how his “super-rich” friends could not have known he was working on “Answered Prayers,” a thinly veiled account of their secrets and indiscretions. Many of these friends, including the three he was closest to, severed their ties to Capote after an excerpt of the book was published in Esquire magazine. The play explores the loneliness, boozing and self-medicating he went through as a result.

Staged by Coyote StageWorks at the Annenberg Theater, “Tru” stars Chuck Yates as the title (and only) character. Yates, the theater company’s co-founder and artistic director, delivers a fine performance as the legendary author. He succeeds in capturing Capote’s mannerisms and the full range of emotions the role requires — from imperious wit to childhood abandonment to bursts of anger and struggles with alcoholism.

Yates embodies Capote, often as remarkably as Toby Jones and Phillip Seymour Hoffman did in their critically acclaimed performances in two recent films about the writer. He nails his high-pitched voice, interspersed with an incessant, soft giggle, and the barely-touching-the-ground bounce of a man who was 5’3”. Yates actually appears to be at least 6 feet tall.

Another highlight of the play is the stories Capote shares about his childhood and the people he knew since moving to Manhattan. There are humorous anecdotes about the 1 percent, the very sort of thing that put him on the outs, and the ridicule and sadness he experienced as an obviously gay boy growing up in the South. There’s a particularly touching and insightful scene where he recalls making a deal with a witch to change him.

What becomes clear about Capote in “Tru” is that he never overcame his outsider status, in spite of his success and resilience. It shows how the lack of acceptance he craved was both a blessing and a curse. Yates and director Larry Raben present a smart, funny and provocative look at how that “other” status — which fueled Capote’s writing and pursuit of celebrity, and endeared him to socialites and fans — reemerged in December 1975 to haunt him.

IF YOU GO
What: “Tru,” a play from the words and works of Truman Capote, by Jay Presson Allen
When: 2 p.m. April 24-28, 7 :30 p.m. April 24, 26 and 27.
Where: Annenberg Theater, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs
Tickets: $39-$55
Info: (760) 325-4490, www.annenbergtheater.org

LGBT center names director to oversee service, health, new building needs

Gary Costa. Submitted photo

Gary Costa will continue to lead The LGBT Community Center of the Desert in efforts to broaden its base and services.

Five months after he assumed leadership as interim executive director, Costa was voted in April 16 as permanent director by The Center board. He looks forward to carrying out the organization’s mission and plans as the Coachella Valley’s only LGBT community center.

“We pretty much have a plan in place to continue to expand our services and programs beyond the senior gay population,” he says. The target market also includes LGBT youth, women and transgender residents, he adds.

The Center’s immediate plans pertain to implementing a valley-wide LGBT health needs assessment, a survey designed to help define the mental health and counseling services it should offer.

A multimillion-dollar capital campaign is also in the works to buy or build a new facility for The Center, which is now located at Palm Springs’ Sun Center, 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Costa says, “This time next year we’ll have something to announce.”

Costa started at The Center in early 2012 as executive assistant to director John O’Connor, who left in November to head up Equality California in Los Angeles. Costa filled the top position as the board conducted a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.

He brings to the job more than 20 years of experience with nonprofit organizations, including jobs with the LA County HIV Planning Commission, Being Alive Los Angeles, and the Coachella Valley Autism Society. Costa lives in Palm Springs with his life partner, Stephen, and their terrier mix, Alton.

For information about The Center, go to www.thecenterps.org.

Study shows why HIV risks greater among men under 30

Logan Voxx (left), founder of PYP Foundation, with a friend at Cocktails for a Cause in 2012. Photo by Lani Garfield

Young men who have sex with men have more instability in their lives and less access to HIV prevention and treatment than their older counterparts, a new study shows.

The Global Forum on MSM & HIV looked at 2,491 of these young men under the age of 30 and from 165 countries. Based on data from the 2012 Global Men’s Health and Rights study, 7 percent reported they have access to HIV risk reduction programs, while only 33 percent said low-cost condoms were easily accessible.

Of the young men who were HIV-positive with a CD4 count (infection-fighting white blood cells) below 350, 44 percent were not engaged in treatment, compared with 17 percent of older men who have sex with men.

The study looked at contributing factors such as experiencing higher levels of homophobia, unstable housing and violence. Twenty percent of the young men surveyed had no income and 30 percent had no stable housing.

“While homophobia can be damaging to gay men of all ages, it can be particularly harmful to younger gay men,” says Daniel Townsend, Global Forum steering committee member. “Like many young gay people, they often have no income and depend on family for housing. If their family does not understand or accept their sexuality, they risk ending up on the street. Without stable housing or resources, many young gay men face extreme challenges in meeting their basic needs.”

Logan Voxx, who works to raise HIV awareness through his Positive Young People Foundation (www.btscampaign.org), agrees. He calls on older gay men to take an active role in helping younger disenfranchised gay men.

“If we can invest more in LGBT youth and empower them to be active leaders in their communities, we can expose many younger men to HIV and AIDS awareness, and safe sex practices,” Voxx says. “While not all young men contract HIV from older men, it is safe to say that older men are not doing enough to promote awareness … We must stand united and rise up to the occasion to make sure we stop new infections.”

Sell the full study brief at http://tinyurl.com/br5qn6d.

 

Desert Outlook weekend: Palm Springs turns 75, Diana Nyad takes a long dip

 

Before her fourth attempt to swim from Havana to Florida last August, Diana Nyad gestures at the Ernest Hemmingway International Nautical Club in Havana. Getty Images

Swimmer Diana Nyad is at it again.

The long-distance swimmer, who holds the world’s record for longest ocean swim (102.5 miles), will be in Palm Springs this weekend preparing to conquer another goal. Nyad, 63, plans to swim non-stop for 48 hours May 28-30 in New York City.

She will practice her endurance technique in the desert during a 24-hour continuous swim at the Palm Springs Swim Center, 405 S. Pavilion Way. It begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 20, and ends at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 21. Nyad encourages residents to come swim with her or hang out poolside: “I’d love to see you all there.”

The event comes eight months after Nyad’s attempt last summer to swim the Straits of Florida from Cuba to the U.S. The swim was cut short by exhaustion and the elements. Other attempts to swim the straits – first in 1978 and twice more in 2011—also ended before completion due to weather conditions, jellyfish stings and a bout with asthma.

Proceeds from the New York swim event will go to Hurricane Sandy relief.

Happy birthday, Palm Springs!
The Coachella Valley’s nameplate community celebrates 75 years of incorporation with a free event featuring activities for all ages. There will be live entertainment, food and beverages, fireworks finale and an exhibition on the desert city through the decades. The festival, which also will include a Kids Zone, will take place 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at the O’Donnell Golf Club, 301 N. Belardo Road.

Mayor’s Healthy Planet, Healthy You
Celebrate Earth Day and support the campaign to reduce childhood obesity at this second annual running and walking event. It includes a 1K, 5K, and 7-mile trek starting at Ruth Hardy Park, 700 Tamarisk Road, Palm Springs. Activities begins at 6 a.m. and continue until 2 p.m. Saturday, April 20. Price: $25 and higher. Info: www.YourSustainableCity.com

Truman at twilight
A new Coyote StageWorks production, “Tru,” revisits the life and works of celebrated writer and gay sophisticate Truman Capote. Set in his United Nations Plaza apartment, the play takes place just before the onset of Capote’s downward spiral following the publication of an excerpt from “Answered Prayers.” The unfinished novel was his last work and consisted of provocative — some might say gossipy — tales that too closely resembled the indiscretions of his New York socialite friends. It explores the loneliness and self-medication Capote experienced as a result. Fans also can expect lighter moments in the play, as Capote was known for witty one-liners. It’s staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 19, and continues through April 28 at the Annenberg Theater, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. Price: $39-$59. Info: www.annenbergtheater.org

“Tales of California”
Historian and documentarian Glenne McElhinney, who was honored in 2012 during the Greater Palm Springs Pride Festival, presents “Tales of California: Briggs, Bryant, Homophobia and the Coming Pandemic.” The presentation includes film clips and a slide show at the Tolerance Education Center, 35-147 Landy Lane, Rancho Mirage. It takes place 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 23. Free admission. Info: www.impactstories.org/ and (760) 328-8252